Monday 24 December 2012

Mrs Angry's Christmas card

Look, Mrs Angry's brother: that was then ...

 ... and this is now: xmas 2012 - older, no wiser, but still your naughty little sister ... x

Someone suggested to Mrs Angry today that this has been a turbulent year, in Broken Barnet. Indeed it has, in all sorts of ways.

One of the unexpected consequences of what has happened here, and further afield, in the last couple of years, the timescale of our insurgency, has been the joy of making so many new friends, whose comradeship, sense of fun and support has been such a blessing, so thank you all, and I wish you all peace, love and happiness over the festive season. 

It won't be like that in the Angry household, clearly, but good luck to everyone else ...

And here is Mrs Angry's favourite carol, rather melancholy, but very beautiful words by Christina Rossetti, whose family, and the wider pr-Raphaelite circle, had what are now little known connections with Finchley, Hendon and Highgate, here in Broken Barnet.

Merry Christmas.

Mrs Angry x


 Christmas Day evening: it seems HM the Queen has decided to emulate Mrs Angry's example, and quote from 'In the Bleak Midwinter', to end her own Christmas message. 

Mrs Angry notes that although the Pope is now on twitter, and no doubt intends to follow Broken Barnet, he has wisely decided to do his own thing this year, and not copy Mrs Angry in his annual address from the Vatican. Her Maj might like to do likewise next year. 

Just a thought.

Five more years in hell, and no OBE for you, Mrs Angry, I think.

Thursday 20 December 2012

Crapita comes to Barnet: Barnet goes to Crapita

Earlier this week, we heard that the Chief Executive of Capita, Mr Paul Pindar, was reluctant to correspond with residents of Broken Barnet, despite the intimate relationship into which we have recently been introduced. This seemed like an awful shame, so some of the residents of Broken Barnet thought they might come and visit Mr Paul Pindar today, in his headquarters at 71, Victoria St, SW1.

(and erm ... please don't blame Mrs Angry for the misspelt embedded title)

Mrs Angry was rather surprised, when she arrived at 71, Victoria St, SW1, this evening, to find that the Capita offices are really very easy to miss, because do you know, citizens, being very modest and not wishing to show off, or to boast about how hugely influential and profitable the company is, Capita has decided not to have any sign outside its HQ telling you what it is? It was almost as if, thought Mrs Angry, they did not want you to know where these offices were, in case, say, any disaffected residents of local authorities newly contracted to Crapita became minded to come and visit Mr Paul Pindar and all his friends and tell them where to get off. Imagine that!

Mrs Angry and some of her friends had decided to come along today to tell Crapita exactly where to get off, and so we stood outside in the rain, along with the Barnet Alliance banner, and gave out leaflets, many of which were taken with interest by passers by, some of whom stopped to mention their own experiences of this company. Two teachers explained that their school was contracted to Capita for their IT management, which they described as 'crap', and obliged them to try and negotiate with faceless employees in Nottingham. 

For some reason, while we were outside, not a single person passed in or out of the front entrance. The doors were firmly closed, and two very jittery security men watched us from the reception area, in case we were about to sneak in and occupy the building - you know,  as if it were - oh, well: you know - a public library ...

As if.

After a while we decided we should perhaps ask to come in and speak to someone. Via the universal medium of mime, and sign language, we communicated to the security men that we wished to say something to them. 

The unattainable world of Capita PLC, beyond the glass wall

They then, reluctantly, warily, opened the side door a couple of inches. Was Mr Pindar available? No. Could we come in and speak to someone? NO! The doors were shut and locked. Mrs Angry gesticulated through the glass: one of the men went to the back of reception to call someone urgently on his walkie talkie. The other guard sat at the desk, head bowed, and refused to make eye contact. They both looked very worried. 

Mrs Angry contented herself with peering in at them through the glass doors, with an insolent expression, like a hungry Victorian street urchin outside a pie shop, admiring the very tacky reception area, which had a rather miserly Christmas tree, and a very shiny silver plaque with details of each of several floors, all exactly the same, CAPITA PLC, and a notice which said that any non Capita employees MUST take the lift. 

A Crapita Christmas, through the swing doors that don't swing

Mrs Angry imagined that this lift went straight to the basement, where non Capita employees are processed, Dr Who style, with Capita implants, and sent back into the world to spread the message of outsourcing, as if they were members of SOLACE or BT Vital Visionaries ...

Earlier this month, as we have reported, some of the Barnet Alliance members had a rather abortive attempt at engaging Mr Paul Pindar in a discussion over his company's plans in regard to Barnet, and enquiries were made about the 'extensive consultation' he claims that Capita has made with representative groups and individuals in Barnet. Further correspondence with members of Barnet Alliance has given a clear indication of the nature of the relationship into which we must submit ourselves, however, to our new masters: at one remove, not worthy to kiss their feet.

 According to Paul Pindar: 

'You and your members will remain customers of the Council ...'

 Julian Silverman, BAPS had a sharp retort for Mr Pindar, and one which was well deserved: 

'We are not customers of Barnet council, we are more properly described as the council's employers. In so far as you have been hired by the council, you should be seen as effectively our servants.'

Welcome to Broken Barnet, Mr Pindar. 

Update, 24th December: 

Here is an early Christmas present for Mr Pindar, Richard Cornelius, and all our Tory councillors: Barnet Alliance issued the following press release today: Mrs Angry

Barnet Alliance for Public Services is delighted to hear that Maria Nash, a Barnet resident who has instructed lawyers to seek a Judicial Review of the One Barnet Programme, has now been granted funding through Legal Aid. 

Lawyers for Barnet Council responded late Thursday night to a pre-action protocol letter that was sent to the Council by Maria’s lawyers on 6 December, prior to the Cabinet meeting that approved the appointment of Capita plc as the preferred bidder for the first of the One Barnet contracts, worth at least £320 million. 

Barnet Alliance understands that Ms Nash’s lawyers will now apply for a full Judicial Review of that decision.

Footnote: Mrs Angry cannot help but be naughtily amused that many Crapita Christmas googlers are landing here via the following link, where this post is listed, stuck there over the festive period, shining brightly like a star of wonder, star of light:

Is that a bad thing, do you think, the red figures, and the graph dipping since - oh, the day of our visit? Sheer coincidence, no doubt

Wednesday 19 December 2012

A Crapita Christmas Cracker for the Tory Councillors of Broken Barnet

Merry Xmas to you, Councillor Cornelius, and to all the craven, empty headed Tory councillors of Broken Barnet:

love and kisses,

Mrs Angry

Tuesday 18 December 2012

The People's Library: today's verdict

Occupier Phoenix after the hearing, interviewed by Australian radio news

We returned to court today to hear the verdict on the application made by Barnet Council to claim possession of the occupied library in Friern Barnet - the People's Library. Judge Patricia Pearl warned the court that it would take an hour to read out her findings. 

The judge repeated her observation of the previous day in which she noted that the library supporters had been 'most co-operative and peaceful both in and around the court'. She also remarked on the widespread media interest - local, national, and international - that the case had attracted.

Judge Pearl then proceeded to read the details of her judgement, starting with a history of the library campaign, and all the events leading up to the present occupation and consequent application from the local authority to claim possession of the building.

There were two main arguments under consideration: whether or not the council had effectively given the occupiers license to remain, and whether or not the repossession of the library would constitute a breach of the human rights act, in particular Articles 10 and 11, dealing with the right to freedom of expression, and the right to peaceful assembly and association with others.

Next the judge dealt with the listing of the library under the provisions of the new localism act, as a community asset, meaning that if the council tries to sell it, it must first consider bids from community groups.

Returning to the issue of whether or not the human rights of the protestors would be infringed by a repossession order, it was agreed that removal from the library would constitute an infringement, but that this was qualified by the greater risk of prejudicing the authority's obligation to offer the vacant property to local community groups who may wish to exercise their right to bid for the building, under the terms of the localism act. Such an infringement, in other words, is justified.

To a lay person sitting in the court, this seemed to be an extraordinary decision, in two ways: first of all  that Articles 10 and 11, regarding the fundamental rights to freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and association are considered to carry less weight than a newly enacted requirement for local authorities in the UK, and second that the purpose of the community asset listing was being applied, seemingly perversely, against the very circumstance it was supposed to facilitate - by acting in good faith to protect the library from sale by Barnet Council, the campaigners were punished by losing their right to remain in the very building they were seeking to secure for the community. 

By the logic of this judgement, if the campaigners had not had the building listed, presumably they would have been left in occupation, their rights to protest protected by Articles 10/11.

Except of course that Barnet's use of the community asset listing was totally cynical, and presented a convenient line of challenge. There never has, and never will be any real desire on behalf of the authority to allow a community group to take control of this building. The council will go through the pretence of entertaining bids from community groups, and find reasons to reject them, and then put the building on the open market, ready for the highest bidder. The property is worth an awful lot more that any price any local group could afford.

But all is far from lost: the judge has required that enforcement of the possession order must not be enacted before the end of a six week period, and local campaigners will hope to apply for a license to remain in the library as interim caretakers, which of course the council will do everything to avoid. 

More importantly, today's judgement will be the subject of an application to the Court of Appeal, and the defendent's legal team appears confident of having a strong case to present.

library campaigner and defendant Keith Martin leaves court unbowed - and relieved that Barnet Council did not press for costs ...

More tomorrow: Mrs Angry has had more than enough of today, in all sorts of ways.

The People's Library: a day in court

Barnet County Court usually deals with family cases, small claims cases: routine, personal issues, attended by the plaintiffs and their legal advisers, dealt with quietly, discreetly: no one else's business, unremarked, and unreported.

Today was different. Today was when the very interesting matter of the occupation of Friern Barnet Library - the People's Library - was brought before the judge, to decide whether or not Barnet Council should be granted leave to repossess the building and evict the occupiers and community activists who have installed themselves in the library, reclaiming it for the people of Friern Barnet.

The people of Friern Barnet came to the court in large numbers today to show their support for the occupiers, crowding out the courtroom, and politely taking their turns in sitting in limited space available throughout the hearing. Politeness, and a very British attitude is the prevailing quality of the occupation, in fact, confounding almost everyone's prejudices about squatters, the occupy movement, and direct action initiatives. Here in this most British of environments, a courtroom, where justice is blind, and allocated on the basis of merit, not privilege, or force, there was perhaps the right home for much of what drives the continuing story of this small scale revolution in a library, in the heart of Tory Barnet. 

The motives of the residents and activists pursuing this course of action are, in Mrs Angry's eyes anyway absolutely just, and seeking only what is fair. It is the corrupt, illegitimate authority of Barnet Council which is on trial, and called to answer for its immorality and betrayal of the best interests of the people it was elected to represent.

Judge Patricia Pearl spent most of the morning deciding on the proper way to conduct the case, and the outlines of the different arguments to be brought by the council and the defendants who are in occupation of the library. Some of the discussions were rather prolonged, and nitpicking, and the judge herself wondered if members of the public would think they were debating 'the number of angels that could be safely accommodated on the head of a pin'.  Eventually proceedings got under way, with four individuals listed as the representatives of the occupiers: Peter Phoenix, Daniel Gardner, Petra Halbert and Keith Martin.

For Barnet the barrister was a Mr Nicholas Grundy, and for the occupiers, Miss Sarah Sackman.

First to take the stand was an officer from property services, Susannah Lewis, who was questioned about such matters as whether or not sleeping in a library, as the occupiers do, constituted a form of residency, and therefore some sort of breach of planning regulations. It appeared that might be the case. She did admit, however, that there had been no impediment to inspection of the premises by the council's representatives by the occupiers.

Bill Murphy, a consultant working as Barnet's Assistant Director of Customer Services, and therefore ultimately responsible for libraries, was sworn in next. Incidentally, there were no Tory councillors present: scared off, no doubt, after last time, when a solitary member,, deputy leader  Councillor Dan Thomas had the uncomfortable experience of being surrounded by the dozens of library supporters.

Mr Murphy said that the council had wanted to enter discussions with the occupiers and campaigners 'in good faith'. Rather puzzlingly he claimed that the council had appointed a named officer to deal with residents and campaigners over the library issue. No one in the courtroom had heard of this individual. 

Some discussion ensued as to whether or not the occupiers had been informed that they were 'trespassers'. He thought that this was 'implied'. 

Mr Grundy suggested that the occupation was an obstruction in the marketing of the library to community bidders, now that the building had been listed, under the new terms of the localism act, as a communtity asset. That was correct, said Mr Murphy.

Mrs Angry tried to understand the point being made here: that the fact that residents had taken steps to get their library building listed in this way was preventing residents from acquiring it for community use?

Mention now was made of the meeting in the occupied library on September 10th, a meeting attended by an assortment of officers, occupiers, residents, campaigners - and bloggers, including Mrs Angry.

Minutes from this meeting had been supplied, and rather bizarrely Mr Grundy, on behalf of the authority, quoted the words of John Dix, blogger Mr Reasonable, saying that the officers present were not authorised to make decisions and asking where were the councillors ... this was represented by Mr Grundy as in some way reinforcing the argument that the meeting was not to be taken as any sort of formal negotation, or recognition of any license to occupy the premises.

It was established now that freelance journalist, Diane Taylor, also present at the 'circle of friends' meeting had asked 'will you enter into a caretaker arrangement'. The answer had been 'we will not enter into any snap decisions'. 

This, you might think clearly suggested that a caretaker arrangement was therefore not ruled out as a possibility, and arguably gave legitimacy to the occupation, allied with the absence of any mention of the term 'trespass'. 

Mr Murphy thought the confusion arose from the difficulty of the council's position, being 'between a rock and a hard place', and not wishing to 'make the situation worse'. He also commented that they were not dealing with 'amateur squatters' - the implication being they knew the position without it being spelt out.

After lunch, it was time for campaigner Fiona Brickwood to take the stand. Ms Brickwood is a psychotherapist by profession, and a resident of Friern Barnet for sixteen years. Her testimony was measured, convincing and yet forthright. She said she was very upset by the closure of the library, the heart, she said, of Friern Barnet. She had her own campaign group, the Friern Barnet Co-action group, but also helped with the Save Friern  Library Group, being involved in protests, attending council meetings, the pop up libraries, all in order to support the community, which had rallied around, brought books, and turned it into a thriving concern. Not just donating books: computers, time, everyone coming together. People got to meet neighbours, and support each other.

Fiona listed some of the many varied activities in the occupied library: children's activities (supervised by CRB checked volunteers) social events, music, yoga, pilates, language lessons. She explained how she felt it was right to protest very strongly about the library being closed, and explained that when asked about the proposal, people had said very strongly 'no, we don't want this'. 

The council's barrister made the mistake of mentioning the failure by campaigners to apply for a Judicial Review. Fiona Brickwood pointed out that in fact this was entirely due to the campaigners being misled by officers as to the process of negotiation in which they thought they were involved, which, prolonged as it was, conveniently(for the council) took them beyond what they later discovered was the the three month limit for application for JR. She described this behaviour by the council as 'reprehensible'. Bill Murphy shook his head.

Asked how she felt about the occupation, Fiona said that the campaigners were 'enormously grateful' to them.  As to the issue about whether trespass was mentioned, she felt that the council was 'talking through their actions', in other words effectively giving a form of legitimacy to the occupation by their negotiations.

Mr Grundy now tried to put the case that the occupation somehow disadvantaged any other groups who wished to bid to take over the library building now it was listed as a community asset. Fiona refuted this, pointing out the library had been empty for a long time, and as to any potential bids - bring'em on ...

Next up was Phoenix, the spokesperson of the library occupiers. He described himself as a community organiser of some 20 years experience - since the Rio summit of 1992. He described coming to Friern Barnet and being struck by the lack of transparency and lack of communication by the council in its dealings with residents over the library. 

He wanted to enable a better dialogue, and bring the council and local community together. In his statement he had described the various activities that have taken place in the occupied library, and added a few more recent examples - the visit and reading from Will Self, an event on climate debate with the new Green Party leader, a talk by a senior Unison officer on 'transition towns'. 

Holding these events, he said, demonstrated that it is a vibrant centre for the community. It strengthened the protest, raised massive awareness in the media - and as he later explained he wanted to draw attention to the wider issue of library closures. He saw himself as a facilitator for the local community, who could create a solution.

Mr Grundy wanted to know if he was a 'professional occupier'. Phoenix thought a better term would be an 'experienced occupier'.

Mr Grundy wanted to know if he thought he was good at it. Phoenix thought he was good at 'community projects'. 

Mr Grundy asked him about the new listing as a community asset, implying that this meant the building would now be retained for community use. No, said Phoenix, who is no fool: this means only that retaining it is just one option.

Mr Grundy gave up.

Finally came the turn of resident Keith Martin. Keith described himself as a retired chartered accountant, and a resident of Friern Barnet for forty two years. He was involved, he said, to refute the idea that the occupiers were 'fly by nights'. It was important to protest about the library closure because Friern Barnet was not a very well off community, the local children could not easily get to another library in North Finchley, not cross the North Circular to the South Friern branch.

Keith mentioned his six hour occupation of the library on the last day of opening, and the consequent pop up libraries. The judge asked how long these continued - all through the August rain? Yes. After describing the occupation as a well run , happy place, Judge Pearl was offered a cup of tea at the library, by Phoenix,  which she declined, albeit with a fair degree of amusement.

After a short break, the hearing resumed on a rather broader level of debate: the question, as raised by the occupiers barrister, of the human rights aspect of the case. And this is where the hearing stopped being about the closure of one library, and about something more intangible, and indefinable.

Articles 10 and 11 of the Human Rights Act refer to the freedom of expression, and to the right to peaceful assembly and association with others. Were these rights engaged in the context of the occupied library, and would they be infringed by eviction?

With such rights, said the judge - once they're there, they're there ... 

A fascinating discussion then ensued between the two counsels and the judge on previous cases involving occupation, protest, and rights in law. The Occupy movement at St Paul's, the Peace Camp/Democratic Village on Parliament Square Gardens, and even the women's camp at Aldermaston: all these notable precedents raised and compared to the occupation of a small branch library in leafy Friern Barnet. 

Would the removal of the protest represent 'an interference' with the rights expressed in law? Is a possession order an interference?

Is it not just a case of whether rights would be infringed, not just in terms of the right to expression and association, but the rights endowed in the manner of the protest itself.

Miss Sackman was now elaborating eloquently on her theme: she maintained that 'the manner and form is the protest itself ' in other words, the medium, in this context, is the message, and should be respected as the act of expression which the Article is meant to protect. An occupation to protest about the occupation of a library should be allowed to be expressed in situ, just as the Aldermaston occupation was allowed to take place in a specific location. 

Since the early days of the campaign to save Friern Barnet library it has been apparent that this particular story is more than the tale of one library, or even One Barnet. It has a resonance, a significance beyond the immediate relevance of the closure of a much loved community resource. It is symbolic of something else, something harder to identify, or define. It speaks to some sort of archtypal emotion, a subconscious longing to retain something slipping just out of reach, something precious, and irreplaceable. We don't know what it is, yet, but we will do, once it has gone.

Don't take our library away: don't shut our museums. Don't sell our local services to Capita and tell us it's all for our own good: this is our community, and we want to live there in our own way, without you telling us how, or why, or what we can say, and when. 

Freedom of speech, freedom of association: democratic liberties we take for granted, until they are taken away - here in Broken Barnet, we are fighting to take control of our local democracy, and our rights in law, and whatever happens tomorrow, we will continue the fight.

Monday 17 December 2012

Bah, humbug: It's Crapita Christmas Week in Broken Barnet

Yes: in the wake of the decision by our Tory councillors to declare Barnet an open city for the marauding hordes of Crapita, the Scrooge like Barnet blogosphere has decided to cancel all festive celebrations, and make you all suffer instead with a week of horrible blogposts all about our new corporate masters. So.

Q:Who is Capita? What is Capita? What does Capita do?

A: It is the UK's biggest provider of BPO: business process outsourcing - back office, front office, private sector -and public sector, the market leader in strategic partnerships with UK local authorities. As well as maintaining huge involvement in private financial and investment companies, Capita has made itself indispensible to every form of public sector initiative, from local authority service provision, to the emergency services, education, the justice system, major infrastructure and regeneration projects, and healthcare.

Capita employs 46,500 people, in more than 350 sites - 68 of them not in the UK but in what they describe coyly as 'specialist business centres' across Europe, and India. Ah. Offshore call centres and related services account for more than 20% of their work locations. That must keep the wage bill down nicely.

And profits from such wise management are very healthy, it seems: turnover for 2011 was £2.9 billion, and profits before tax amounted to £385 million. Half year results for the first six months of 2012 were up between ten to fifteen per cent compared to the previous half year figures. Look at me: Mrs Angry, auditor to Crapita, plc. Eat your heart out, Mr Paul Hughes, of Grant Thornton. Yep: let me just sign the accounts off ... no need to look at any of the details, fine, fine, fine: any objections? Really? That'll be £34,000 just for asking. Time is money. Next.

Let's see. The company website has a helpful document with facts and statistics about the many, many services it currently delivers. It takes five pages to list them all, categorised under the following headings:

Customer Management
Life and Pensions 
General Insurance 
IT services 
Secure Information Solutions 
Software Services 
Revenues & Benefits 
Payment Management 
Software for schools and childrens services 
Investor & banking services 
Health solutions 
Property & Infrastructure consultancy 
Business travel 
TV licensing

There are some mind boggling statistics in this document: in 2011, for example, Capita supplied ICT products and services to 52 of the 53 police forces in the UK. The company's software services were delivered in partnership with over 70% of all local authorities. Capita was the fourth largest architectural practice, the main supplier of finance systems to the NHS, supported the IT needs of 20% of all schools in the UK. 

In other words: Capita does everything, is everywhere, feeds off every part of our public services and yet ... the beast is still hungry for more, its appetite undiminished by an ever increasing diet of market opportunity. Where can it go now? It needs new markets, new opportunities - and these are getting harder and harder to find, in this time of austerity measures and savage cuts in budget.

After a few years of what has been described as a 'frenzy' of public sector outsourcing, and in particular an enthusiasm for large scale partnerships with local authorities, there is now, in the wake of a shift in government policy, a rejection of such large scale programmes, in favour of a more mixed approach, using a variety of in house, voluntary and less over ambitious private sector providers. A more pragmatic solution, with risk spread over a range of suppliers. 

Oh: except of course here in Broken Barnet, we are years behind everyone else's thinking, and our Tory councillors are too stupid and lazy to inform themselves of the current political preference for public service provision, finding it easier to listen to the smooth assurances and empty promises of senior officers and private sector consultants, preparing the way for the introduction of a determined seduction by the big outsourcing companies like Capita, and BT.

Our Tory councillors have tried to convince us that the deal with Capita is a marvellous idea, of course. They know this because - well they don't know this at all, because they have not read the contract, or the necessary reports so as to inform themselves of the detail but they assure us that their senior management team and consultants have done all this tedious research for them. There is no need of any independent risk assessment, and everything will be just fine.

Our Tory councillors are very trusting. They also have short memories. Mrs Angry remembers, even as they seem to have forgotten, that not so long ago, this council lost many millions of pounds of tax payers money in the Icelandic bank crash. At the time, the leader of the council was Mr Mike Freer, now Mrs Angry's local MP. Mr Mike Freer said the Icelandic investment fiasco was nothing to do with him, and a senior officer got the blame. 

Mr Mike Freer was also the only true begetter of easycouncil, which became Futureshape, which became One Barnet. 

And here is a funny thing, citizens, and isn't the world a small place? 

Yes: just fancy that: according too this local Times group story from 2009, the financial advisers to Barnet Council at the time of the Icelandic investment were two companies: Butlers, run by former Conservative Party treasurer Michael Spencer ... oh, and also a company known as 'Sector Treasury Services ltd' or STS - which is owned by ... Capita. According to this report:

"A council spokeswoman confirmed Mr Towey failed to cross-check the deposits against credit criteria approved by the council’s financial advisors, Sector Treasury Services Ltd and Butlers Ltd, as outlined in Barnet's treasury management strategy."

Ah: all his fault then. Although quite a few critics may have wanted to put the blame elsewhere: see here

One thing is clear: when the One Barnet outsourcing deals go sour, as they will, it will be the senior officers, once again who carry the can: if any of them are still here. Capita will fight any challenge based on alleged failures in contractual obligations, and you and I, the residents and taxpayers of Broken Barnet, will be the ones who pick up the bill.

In truth, Capita now exerts a hugely powerful influence in the provision of public sector services - and might be argued to represent a virtual monopoly in some areas of the market.

Certainly in partnership with its few leading competitors, the market is pretty well set up in their favour, supplying custom to a strictly limited number of giant companies living off the profits to be found in your child's school, or your local hospital, or your council's services. 

Is this healthy? Does it ensure best value for money for taxpayers? Or is there not a rapidly increasing risk of conflict of interest when so many different functions are delivered by the same company, and so many links are formed between the company and the public sector markets where it operates?

Crapita Week, in Broken Barnet: more to follow on all the blogs this week.